Flu Season Is Upon Us...

Flu Season Is Upon Us...

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s influenza (flu) season was one of the deadliest; that’s why the (CDC) is urging people to take proactive measures to lower their risk of contracting the flu this year by getting vaccinated. “Since it takes approximately two weeks after the vaccination is administered for the antibodies that protect against the flu to be produced, it is recommended that you get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community,” Eric Boehmer, MD., PhD, Marsho Family Medical Group. The best time to get the flu vaccine is by the end of October but, if you have not had one yet, it is still advisable to get the flu shot – even if it’s January or later.

Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Peak flu activity is usually sometime between December and February, but it can last as late as May. “Getting a vaccine greatly reduces your risk of getting the flu. However, even if you do get sick it could be less severe. Vaccines against the flu will also protect women during and after pregnancy and protect a baby after delivery,” said Dr. Boehmer.

Who should get the flu vaccine? Many people feel they are healthy and don’t need to worry about getting a flu shot. However, Dr. Boehmer suggests that, “it is important for everyone, regardless of how healthy they feel, to consider getting vaccinated.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The flu virus is common, but unpredictable. It can cause serious complications even in healthy children, which is why we strongly recommend annual flu vaccine for all people aged 6 months and older. Immunization is the best way to protect children from influenza.”

Flu Symptoms Flu symptoms vary from person-to-person. In general, people who have the flu often feel some or all, of the following symptoms. Many other viruses cause similar symptoms, so having the following symptoms does not mean you have the flu. Your doctor can perform a test to tell the difference.  Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have fever)  Cough  Sore throat  Runny or stuffy nose  Muscle or body aches  Headaches  Fatigue (tiredness)  Vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults Most people who get the flu get better in 7-14 days. But some people can develop serious complications caused by viral infection of the nasal passages, throat and lungs. Young children, adults ages 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions are among those groups of people who are at high risk of serious flu complications. “It is important to take preventive steps to protect yourself and reduce the risk of illness. And, if you or your child is sick, stay home to avoid spreading it to others,” said Dr. Boehmer.

Reduce Your Risks

  1. Avoid large crowds. While this can be difficult, if you are able to limit contact with people during flu season, you can reduce your risk of getting an infection. Remember, the flu can spread quickly in confined spaces: schools, workplaces, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. If you have a weaker immune system wearing a face mask whenever you are in a public place during flu season can help reduce your risk. Most important for those at higher risk, protect yourself by staying away from people who are sick.
  2. Wash your hands regularly. The flu virus is transmissible from hard surfaces for 24 hours, so it is important to get into the habit of washing your hands. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizing gel with you and sanitize your hands throughout the day when you are unable to wash your hands. In addition, you need to make a conscious effort to avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes. The flu virus can travel in the air, but it can also enter your body when your infected hands touch your face.
  3. Strengthen your immune system. A strong immune system helps your body fight off infections and helps reduce the severity of symptoms if you get sick. The best ways to strengthen your immune system are to eat a healthy, plant-based nutrient-rich diet and limit sugar, junk foods and fatty foods. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are full of vitamins and antioxidants to promote good health. Talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin or other supplement to provide immune system support.
  4. Get an annual flu vaccination. Getting a flu shot can reduce your risk of illness, on average, by 40 to 60 percent and may reduce the severity and duration of your illness should you contract the flu. Also, ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccinations. These protect against pneumonia, meningitis and other bloodstream infections.
  5. Clean and disinfect surfaces. If someone in your home has the flu you can reduce your risk of infection by keeping surfaces in your home clean. Use a disinfectant cleaner to wipe down doorknobs, telephones, toys, light switches and other surfaces; don’t forget to include the television remote.
  6. Visit the doctor if you develop flu symptoms especially if you are 65 years or older. There’s no cure for the flu but if you are exposed to the virus and see your doctor early, you might be able to receive a prescription for antiviral medication. If taken within the first 48 hours of the first symptoms, an antiviral may shorten the duration of the flu and reduce the severity of symptoms. There is also a lower risk of developing complications such as pneumonia.

“Remember when it comes to other holistic ways to strengthen your immune system such as daily vitamins, supplements, etc., what works for one person may not be recommended for another. Talk to your doctor about getting a flu vaccination and how you can be proactive about strengthening your own immune system,” said Dr. Boehmer.

Flu and other vaccines are required to be covered by your health insurance without charging a copayment or coinsurance. But, be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at a limited set of locations.